There’s no official name for the Akron Children’s Hospital picnic that started Friday afternoon near Perkins Square and ended up at Canal Park for the RubberDucks game.
No name, but lots of tradition.
Several hundred patients, family and doctors with the hospital’s Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders gathered for the annual get-together, which has been going on for 32 years.
And it’s been growing, said Dr. Jeffrey Hord, director of the hospital’s Division of Hematology-Oncology.
“It’s a celebration of patients and families battling cancer or blood disorders,” Hord said.
The picnic precedes Hord’s tenure at Children’s, but has evolved into a night out at Canal Park with a RubberDucks game, food and fireworks.
The last four years, one of the center’s young patients has designed a winning shirt used in the game by RubberDucks players, Hord said. This year’s winner was Massillon resident Macy Carmichael, 11, who got to meet RubberDucks owner Ken Babby at the game. She’s been cancer free for 10 years.
And two lucky patients, one boy and one girl, get to run the bases after the third inning.
For Friday's event, it was Ava Bogniard, 10, and Liam Young, 8.
Hudson resident Ava has been battling brain cancer since it was diagnosed in April 2018. After surgery, she endured nine rounds of chemotherapy and 30 of radiation.
Through it all, she never asked for special treatment.
“She doesn’t want to be treated differently,” said her father, Jason Bogniard. “[She has] been an inspiration to the rest of us.”
Ava was at the picnic with her father, mother, Michele, and younger sister, Ella.
An East Woods Elementary fifth-grader, Ava hopes to be in the band and the ski club.
“I get to be down at the green in the same park as all the players,” Ava said. Her favorite baseball player is Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, who used to play for the RubberDucks.
Ava had big plans for the game, too, planning to slide into home, despite her dad’s preference that she not do so.
At the game, a family with orange #karsonstrong T-shirts dominated one row of seats.
The shirts were for Karson Gray, 3, at the game with his mother, Keligh, and brothers, Keegan, 2, and Kamden Gross, 6, and other relatives. Karson's birthday is Sept. 23.
Keligh Gray said her son was diagnosed with leukemia in June 2018. He is doing very well, she said, but will have three years of treatment. His mom said the doctors and staff at Children's are "fantastic," and Karson agreed Dr. Hord is "nice."
All told, the RubberDucks said 850 tickets were given out for the event.
"We've had an example over the years of overcoming many obstacles, winning many battles," Hord said during remarks before the start of the game.
Or as the back of Macy's winning shirt says, "Fight like a kid."
Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or emailed at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconjournal.